tv Dateline NBC NBC March 26, 2012 2:30am-3:30am EDT
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all of a sudden they're gone. that was the last time i saw my best friend. >> i think it all points to this guy, the man with many names. >> they were newlyweds when they vanished. also gone, the charming mystery man who was their tenant. >> this guy just shows up out of nowhere, taking advantage of people, manipulative. >> an english aristocrat. at least that's what he said. >> he told people he bought a castle in england and he wanted to ship it over here, brick by brick. >> a decade later, a skeleton
found in the backyard. who was it? and where was that charismatic tenant? >> everywhere he went, he told lie after lie after lie. >> then a bombshell. dramatic new evidence in the case of a man who called himself clark rockefeller. >> the wife says, chris, there's a bloodstain on this rug. and he rolls it up immediately and takes off. >> was the con man also a killer? >> i would never hurt anyone. >> mike taibe with buried secrets. >> thanks for joining us. i'm lester holt. they were a young couple just start thiing their lives togeth like so many newlyweds establishing their careers. then they just disappeared. no reason to expect foul play until an eerie discovery tied to a case that made headlines on two continents and linked to the name of one of the world's most
famous families. here's mike taibe. >> each step down the driveway brought her closer. the detectives' first glimpse of murder. >> that's not acceptable for anybody. >> reporter: it all began on the afternoon of may 5, 1994. >> an officer had gone out on a call and they said they had discovered a body. >> reporter: trisha guff was the first detective on the scene. she was told the construction crew had been digging in a hole to put in a pool, and about four feet down, their backhoe had snagged on some plastic bags. inside those bags, something that shocked them: bones. >> a lot of the workers were standing around and seemed very upset by it. >> reporter: she jumped down into the hole to take a closer look. >> we saw some white material, we saw plastic, and then we saw the skull off to the side. >> reporter: it was a human skeleton cut into three sections
wrapped in plastic bags and stuffed into a fiberglass box. but whose skeleton? and how long had it been there? such a ghoulish crime scene was the last thing anyone would expect in swanky san mareno. less than 25 miles from hollywood, its manicured lawns was something out of a movie. >> people had a lot of money, they were engaged in the community. >> reporter: but just below the surface here, there was something violent, something police needed investigated. >> we shut it down, taped it off and started getting witness statements. >> reporter: the detectivedetec first breakthrough came from her sergeant. >> he said, you know, i took him somewhere a few years back. >> reporter: inside she found a paper trail documenting a story of a family that had lived there ten years before. there was dee dee sulis, an
agi aging debutante, her husband john, of who was said to be extremely jealous. living in the backyard was the strange man who said he was an aristocrat. her best friend had long suspected something ugly had happened in that house. >> there is foul play of some kind somehow. >> sue kaufman met linda in third grade. they bonded over their love of horses. >> we would put them in a saddle, we would dress them in dressage, anything. >> reporter: in high school, she watched linda get caught up in another sort of fantasy. >> she was in a world always moving, always vibrant. >> reporter: it was a world of anything goes, a world of leather class and intergalactic
travel. it didn't seem so unexpected. what did seem unexpected at the time was the man she decided to fall in love with, johnny sulis, with coke bottle glasses. >> he was very doting on her. i knew she liked having him around. >> the two married on halloween. short on rent money, the two decided to move into the house with six cats into the home owned by his mother. >> it was a big house. but when you went inside, it was just nasty in there. >> reporter: john's mother would bang on the door in the middle of the night. >> linda was like, just stay away from her. we don't talk to her. just ignore her. >> reporter: it was the dark beginning of a marriage. nevertheless, they seemed happy.
starting in 1995, her technicolor paintings were getting noticed. >> she had her first public art show. >> john was making money, too. although it wasn't a lot, they did have the down payment for a new truck which they showed to sue kaufman. >> they were like, look, we have a truck, we're real people. >> reporter: that truck would be an important part of the puzzle later on. but for now, it got them away from that unhappy house. one evening, the three friends sat in the truck making plans to take a road trip together. >> we were all very excited about it and we were planning it. >> reporter: a few weeks later, linda called sue out of the blue to say she and john were headed to new york. she said he landed a top secret government job and needed to sign some paperwork. >> and they want me, too. and i thought that was odd. why would the government want you? what do you know? and you can draw unicorns.
>> reporter: it sounded so far-fetched. but she knew her friend wouldn't let her down. she would be back in time for their road trip. except she wasn't. she never showed. >> just disappeared off the face of the earth. forever, as far as i could tell. >> reporter: linda never went home. never went back to work at the bookstore. never delivered the painting someone had already paid for. >> it didn't make sense for her to just leave, to just blow it off. that's when i said to myself, this is becoming more and more wrong every time something transpires. >> reporter: and now nearly 10 years after linda and john had been disappeared, a skeleton had been discovered just yards from the house. >> we immediately assumed it was going to be a homicide. >> reporter: police stood watch over the night, waiting for the careful removal of a skeletal remains of a body still buried in the backyard. but whose body?
had linda been found at last? coming up, that missing couple and the mysterious mission. the young husband's mother said she knew all about it. >> she goes, i have a source that's giving me all this information about where they are, what they're doing. >> reporter: who was that source? and what did he know? when "buried secrets" continues. wait a minute, come back ! um, miss ? up here! right. like 85% of us, you have hard water stains and that cleaner's not gonna cut it. truth is, you need something powerful. you need lime-a-way. it's 4 times more effective at removing limescale than the leading bathroom cleaner. because lime-a-way is specially formulated to conquer hard water stains. for lime, calcium and rust... lime-a-way is a must. conquer your busy day. burn! let's do it! ♪ hi. [ female announcer ] outlast your day, any day,
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may 1994. a mummified skeleton had been unearthed in the back of the face. a detective wondered if it had to do with anything of the couple who disappeared ten years before. >> it takes on a more sinister air. >> back in february of '85, linda sohus had told people the unbelievable story that she and husband john had been headhunted by the government for a secret mission and needed to go to new york to sign some paperwork. when saw kaufman didn't hear from them for a few weeks, she called linda's mother-in-law, didi, to find out where they were. >> she goes, oh, they're in paris. i'm like, paris, california? oh, no, paris, france. and i'm like, what? >> reporter: as time passed, linda's sister kathy jacoby was worried, too. she thought linda would have been too excited to keep the
details of a trip a secret. no, something else was going on. >> i felt like i needed to find out what happened so i could be angry at her. >> reporter: but her anger turned to concern when she got a call from the cat hotel where linda had boarded her six cats. linda hadn't picked them up and they would soon be euthanized. >> she would have come back for her cats, i know it. that's when i went to the police. >> reporter: kathy called the san marino police, asking them to check on the couple. but when she got to the house, didi turned them away. >> she was adamant they had gone on this mission for the u.s. government and that's where they were. she goes, i have a source that's giving me all this information about where they are, what they're doing, and they asked me to send their mail to this place in north carolina. >> reporter: a secret source keeping tabs on the couple? maybe that was how friends and
family finally got the message that they were worried about them, because pretty soon a postcard arrived from paris. >> i saw a thing about paris and i thought, linda. i turned it over and it said, kind of missed new york. oops! but this can be lived with. >> sue thought she recognized her friend's handwriting, but she was still worried. the tone of the card still worried her. >> if you had just been uprooted and left your cats and your whole life, you're not going to write this little bitty sentence. you're just not. >> reporter: so there it was, an indication, anyway, that the couple was okay. that's when the cops seemed to lose interest. >> they're like, well, she's over 21. if she doesn't want to come back, she doesn't have to. nobody is going to make her. >> i felt so sad at that. >> reporter: and now nine years later, sue kaufman was talking to another set of investigators about her friend. a skeleton had been found at
john sohus' childhood home. was it him? or could it be her childhood friend, linda? the yard now resembled an archeological dig, investigators on their hands and knees searching for every shard of bone, every scrap of justice. the skeleton was transported to the l.a. county coroner's office. it was there that the plastic bags were removed and the body laid out piece by piece. detective gough saw right away that by the skeleton's size and clothing, it couldn't be linda. >> it appeared to be the same physical dimensions as john. just the way the clothing was, it was similar to how john dressed: jeans, a plaid red shirt. >> reporter: now it was official. what had been a missing persons case now became a homicide investigation. in 1994, this is what investigators knew. three people had lived in that crumbling house with its
shuttered windows and stained walls. john sohus had been buried in the backyard. his wife was missing, and his mother was now dead. >> reporter: but the old woman had left behind one clue to the mystery. it was there in the case file. pasadena star news editor frank gerardo col gerardo: >> she decides she needs to call the police herself and say, i need to you find my son. they've been gone too long. >> reporter: she said her secret source had vanished and had taken the couple's truck with them. >> it just takes on a whole other arena of questions without answers. >> reporter: investigators now
needed to take into account one other person, didi's secret source. who was he? and if he could be found, could he lead them to the missing linda and information about john sohus' killer? coming up, the investigation shifts to the mysterious tenant in the guest house. he claimed to be a rich aristocrat, but he didn't live like one. >> if he professed to be from all
the sedate signs of springtime in san marino, sprinklers turning on, the drifting sounds of cocktail chatter had been supplanted by something much uglier. >> the body was found buried -- >> reporter: the discovery of john sohus' skeleton was big news. >> cut into three pieces. stored in plastic bags. >> reporter: detective tricia gough was helping the l.a. county sheriff's department try and figure out who had killed the shy computer programmer. one name stood out in the case file put together by detectives when john and his wife linda had
first gone missing. >> he was one of the last people to have lived at the house. >> reporter: his name was christopher chichester. he was the tenant renting the guest house from john's mother, a modest structure behind the main house where john and linda lived. what did your colleagues knew who had looked at the missing persons case? >> kind of a prissy kind of guy. the way he came across, he didn't seem to be that type of person who would have gone anything you would consider violent or nefarious. >> reporter: but now investigators decided to take another look at chichester. they fanned out across the neighborhood to find out what people remember. >> here is a young man who is well dressed, well spoken, fun and friendly. >> reporter: like so many others in san marino, novelist meredith brucker had met chichester on the patio of church of our savior. the young englishman told her he was an aspiring film producer. she watched him mingle with the well-heeled congregation after sunday services. >> he could talk about anything. he kind of knew how to push your
buttons. >> reporter: you aren't saying that in a negative way. >> right. he was very interested in people. >> reporter: and people were very interested in him, for there on his business card was a heraldic seal. he was none other than the 13th baronet of chichester. >> i just called him chichester because the name just seemed -- and he even laughed about it being pretentious. he was self-deprecating, he could laugh at himself. >> reporter: by day he told people he attended film classes at usc. you can see him for yourself acting in this student horror movie. by night, chichester could be found squiring rich widows to san marino social event, regaling dinner guests with stories of his massive fortune. cori woods was just a child but chichester's stories had made quite an impression on her. >> he'd bought a castle in england and he wanted to ship it over here brick by brick. >> reporter: that's a fantastical story, though.
>> and of course, we thought, well, that would be a great idea. >> reporter: pretty soon chichester had become the town's most eligible bachelor. >> my father introduced us. >> reporter: carol campbell was home from college when her father fixed her up with chichester on a date. >> so i assumed it was lunch, but instead we went on a series of errands, like to the post office. >> reporter: hardly the behavior she'd been expecting. carol couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, especially when he showed up in a junker of a car. >> if you profess to be from all this nobility and wealth, why you are driving this? it didn't add up. >> reporter: nine years on detective gough was skeptical, too. people around town who praised chichester to police investigating the missing persons case, had a more jaded view of the young man now. the suave baronet had had dropped heavy hints about his fortune had rarely paid for anything. and come to think of it, had lived in relative squalor. >> i think i remember a little single bed pushed against the
wall. it was horrible. i don't even think -- he'd have no kitchen that i know of. >> reporter: and there was something else a little bit off about the town's most eligible bachelor. cori woods wasn't even a teenager when 20-something chichester asked her to the movies. you were how old then? >> maybe 12. and my mom said a very definitive no. and then after that, you know, it got a little weird and he started asking other inappropriate girls out. >> reporter: not age appropriate. >> not age appropriate. >> reporter: in the meantime, investigators wondered whether chichester had been escorting rich widows around town with an eye on their money. >> somehow he ended up in clubs in places where the wealthier members of san marino. >> reporter: church of our savior. >> right. where they would be socializing. so he does start coming across after a while as being kind of sneaky and manipulative.
>> reporter: detective gough quickly established two facts about the fantastical chichester. the film student who watched hitchcock movies late into the night in the guest house had never been registered at usc, and he was no blue blood. there was no 13th baronet of chichester. was there a point when you were researching this guy and you said he's not just a phony, he's a 14 karat phony? >> oh, yeah. but you have to be impressed. people bought it hook, line and sinker. >> reporter: what about the tales he told to john and linda sohus when they were living so close together. they wondered if he was after didi's modest savings too. >> you have these not worldly people and a master manipulator. >> reporter: always in that mix the scent of money. >> i think the assumption is if you're in san marino, there's
money somewhere. >> reporter: detective gough wasn't sure what to make of it. it was clear that investigators needed to find christopher chichester and find out if he knew about john sohus' death. coming up -- the next clue on the trail of the phony aristocrat. >> we were able to grab one of the prints from there and finally have a fingerprint. >> he was using a new name, but what was his real identity? when "buried secrets" continues. [ male announcer ] if your kid can recognize your sneeze from a crowd... you're probably muddling through allergies.
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john sohus' mother didi sat by the phone waiting for her missing son to call. he'd vanished without a word in 1985. almost ten years later, john's skeleton had been unearthed in the backyard of his home not far from where his mother had been sitting. detective tricia gough was trying to build a profile of the
mysterious man who had been living in the guest house at the time john died. what vision or image of him is forming in your mind? >> taking advantage of people, manipulative. i mean, the guy just shows up out of nowhere and is able to, you know, pretty much get free rent. >> reporter: but that didn't make him a murderer. what's more, the detective noted, chichester had continued to live in the guest house for months after john must have been killed. he'd even thrown parties there. that's pretty cold blooded if this is a murderer, isn't it? >> right. >> reporter: meredith brucker had been one of chichester's party guests. he'd invited her to play trivial pursuit in the backyard where john sohus' dismembered body would be found years later. >> when i looked around this yard, it was a big yard, totally unkempt, overgrown, ungardened, just a mess. >> reporter: but she noticed something else that investigators would find interesting. chichester appeared to have the run of the place including the main house where john's mother didi lived.
>> he said we're going to need soft drinks. let's go up to the front house. i said can you just go in there? oh, yeah, no problem. >> reporter: but it was what the detective learned next that convinced her that chichester just might know what happened to john and linda. it turns out that didi had told police the identity of her secret source. she said the person who had filled her head with all the hush hush details about john and linda's mysterious government mission, the person who had reassured her that her son was alive, that all was well, was none other than christopher chichester. >> chichester has been telling her that he's in contact with them and for her not to contact or tell anybody, that all the information will come through him. >> reporter: and there was other evidence suggesting that chichester had been up to no good. one of his neighbors told detective gough about a smell coming from the guest house, a smell he hadn't been able to forget in ten years. >> there had been something burning in the fireplace and it
went on for a while and he went next door and said, whatever you're doing, can you knock it off? and chichester appeared to be pretty startled and said, oh, absolutely. >> reporter: what had chichester been burning? and why he had been so jumpy about it? nearly ten years on was there any physical evidence left behind to tell investigators what chichester had been doing? they waited till 2:00 in the morning to spray the guest house with luminol, the chemical that glows when it comes in contact with blood. the results were chilling. >> it lit up like a christmas tree. there was the appearance of body fluids on the floor and on the walls. and there was an extensive amount. >> reporter: body fluids, most probably blood, had pooled on the floor of the guest house. detective gough speculated that chichester's attempts to clean it up had caused that smell that the neighbor had complained about. >> maybe he sopped up the towels. maybe he was burning the carpet. >> reporter: now the detective had no doubt. >> i absolutely felt that chichester was involved.
there can't be that many coin dens in a single case. >> reporter: tricia gough no longer thought that chichester was just a person with information about the case. she believed he was a murderer. but where was he now? he'd long since left town. >> he would show up out of the blue and just go sit by our pool. >> reporter: investigators tracked down a family who had known chichester throughout his time in san marino, a family who knew he'd been faking it all this time. >> he had to be himself here. he couldn't tell us he was royalty or whatever. >> reporter: because they knew who chichester really was. wayne's parents had first met him in germany when she'd been tourists in bavaria. far from being an english baronet, he was a german immigrant named christian gerhartsreiter. once in a while the young german would escape his life in san marino to spend time with them. but they told investigators that their friend had seemed depressed around the time that
john and linda disappeared. >> he seemed very dejected. like it hasn't worked out. >> reporter: he told wayne that he was leaving town and heading east to become a stockbroker, but he left no forwarding address. it seemed like another dead end. or was it? investigators noticed a report tucked into the missing persons case file that confirmed that chichester had made to it the east coast. >> suddenly it surfaces in connecticut. >> reporter: three years after chichester had left san marino, he tried to sell linda and john's prize possession, their truck, in connecticut. it was a big mistake. >> so when it shows up and he's trying to sell it and the title on it is funny. >> reporter: the dmv reported chichester to the police and revealed something crucial, the identity that he'd been using when he tried to sell the truck: christopher crowe, stockbroker. >> you have to take certain tests and so forth. we were able to grab one of the prints from there. and that's how we were able to
finally have a fingerprint. >> reporter: gough and her colleagues searched for crowe, but no luck. still, having the con man's fingerprint on file meant that police had something tangible that could help identify him if he should surface down the road whatever identity or role he had now assumed he was in the system. but as quickly as things came together, it seemed the investigation fell apart. >> we had made so much progress in the beginning, you know, and finding the fingerprint and finding the different names. it was all starting to connect together and just stops. >> reporter: did it occur to you that this guy might be in the wind and we may never get him? >> he had been in the wind for a time. then his trail stopped. >> reporter: then before she knew it, tricia gough was off the case, promoted to sergeant. and her colleagues were distracted by another famous murder case. the years passed, but as time went on, there was always someone out there pestering investigators, keeping the newlyweds' memory alive, linda's
best friend, sue kaufman. >> they're just a mystery. there's some people out there that randomly had bad things happen to them. and it's never been -- it's never been dug into enough, i don't think. >> reporter: until the unexpected happened in the summer of 2008. a family drama playing out on a leafy boston street. one that would make headlines across the country and rouse the ghosts of linda sohus and her dead husband john. were investigators about to find out what had happened all those years ago? coming up -- >> when i saw in it the newspaper, i knew that was him. >> hiding in plain sight, chichester's astonishing new identity. >> the waiters would refer to him as mr. rockefeller. and how are you, mr. rockefeller? >> when "dateline" continues. i can't wait to take 'em out, throw 'em away and never see them again. [ male announcer ] know the feeling? get the contacts you've got to see to believe.
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this and i feel like a viking... [ roars ] not my style, man. [ male announcer ] master your style... even trimming, a close shave, and accurate edging... with the new gillette fusion proglide styler. every inch of hair needs to be on point. ♪ i was shocked. absolutely shocked. >> reporter: tricia gough couldn't believe it. at long last the search was over. the face of the man who had eluded california homicide detectives for years was staring out from a morning newspaper. >> when i saw it in the newspaper, i knew that was him. >> reporter: but nearly 15 years after a bulldozer had disturbed john sohus' makeshift grave, investigators could barely
believe that the man they knew as christopher chichester had been hiding and how he managed to invent and sustain his boldest persona yet. >> the waiters would refer to him as mr. rockefeller, and how are you mr. rockefeller? he had this air about him. >> reporter: it was when he met james frederick mills rockefeller. one of those rockefellers who said he was worth $400 million. >> he paid for everything we did. i don't think i ever remember paying for anything. >> reporter: unlike his time slumming it in that san marino guest house, rockefeller, aka christopher chichester was living the high life and seemed to have the money to pay for it. it was fine dining at exclusive private clubs, a priceless art collection hanging on his walls, or so he said. >> i was standing there looking at a painting and he came over and introduced himself to me. >> reporter: socialite roxane west met the fake rockefeller at cocktail hour at a posh art
gallery. he charmed her like he had those rich widows years before. >> he was so mild mannered and so soft-spoken and very polite and a gentleman. >> reporter: and he asked for the socialite's phone number. when he texted her a few days later, rockefeller told roxane he was given a private tour of the met. it was the beginning of a text message relationship that was, by turns, fun, far out or flirty. i did want to tell you that i find you superbly -- never mind, rockefeller wrote. perhaps go to central park and kiss for an hour or so? and then a few days later, in a submarine, crowded, strange. thought of you just a minute ago. >> the texts were so wild and so far-fetched. i would just giggle and go where does he come up with this stuff? >> wherever he went, he met people, he circulated, he told lie after lie after lie ai after lie. >> reporter: reporter mark seal
profiled the inventor of those lies in his book "the man in the rockefeller suit". >> he's proof that no matter what you say, you know, if it's wrapped in a famous name people tend to believe it. >> reporter: the most important believer, rockefeller's wife of 12 years. sophisticated, harvard educated sandra boss. after their daughter was born, the con man settled into the perfect cover, the devoted family man in boston's beacon hill. >> he always had a smile. always, you know, chipper and cheery and isn't the world lovely? >> reporter: amy patt became friends with rockefeller at the school bus stop. a couple of loving parents. rockefeller, a stay-at-home dad to his little girl. >> i saw clark as a doting father. he would carry her on his shoulders. he would gloat about how smart she was. >> reporter: here was one relationship that the con man wasn't faking, but that relationship was torn away from
him when his wife announced she was divorcing him. >> his whole life was turned upside down. >> reporter: sandra boss moved to london and took their daughter with her. rockefeller was devastated when a judge ruled that he could only have three supervised visits a year with a daughter he adored. >> he would say things like, i think i'm just going to get on a boat and go away and, you know, never come back. >> reporter: what amy didn't know was that rockefeller had a special talent for disappearing. but this time he would be taking someone with him. and that would ultimately be his undoing. july 27th, 2008, a sultry afternoon in boston's back bay. it was the first of rockefeller's supervised visits with his daughter since they moved to london. as they walked to lunch he suddenly shoved her into a waiting getaway car. father and daughter.
>> she's been kidnapped by her father. >> reporter: within minutes the girl's mother was notified and rushed to the scene. she told police she had no idea where to start looking for her ex-husband because during the divorce proceeding she found something that shocked her. everything he told her about himself had been a lie, everything. she didn't even know his real name. >> they put the photo out right away and got the amber alert started immediately. >> reporter: boston detective bet that someone, somewhere would recognize the kidnapper. his face flashed across tv screens nationwide. >> people here who saw the picture said that's christopher chichester. >> reporter: was rockefeller the boston kidnapper really chichester the california murder suspect? there was one way for investigators to make the connection. those fingerprints that detective tricia gough had tracked down from chichester's days as a stock broker because it turned out that clark
rockefeller, so careful had left behind prints from his high living boston days. >> there was a wine glass left at an acquaintance's house. off that glass we were able to lift some prints. >> reporter: first a match, now police knew for sure that rockefeller and chichester were the same person. what feelings were stirred up for you when that happened? >> i was elated. hoping to find justice for john. >> reporter: before there could be justice for john, police had to capture a man skilled enough to elude law enforcement for 20 years, skills that had saw kaufman, the best one of one of his possible victims, frustrated. >> they told me every time we find him, we're a day behind him. he just skipped town, then he disappears again. coming up -- a con man cornered. >> i can fairly certainly say that i've never hurt anyone.
clark rockefeller, aka christopher chichester, was a man on the run. for years he'd managed to dodge law enforcement, but now, six days after he snatched his daughter off a boston street, police were finally closing in. >> we were looking at this now as a person who may be a homicide/suicide situation. we didn't know what could transpire. >> reporter: but then a lucky break. a tip from baltimore pinpointing the phony rockefeller's hideout. a carriage house where they arrested him, found his daughter playing with her dolls. police gave her mother the good news. >> she just fainted. she fainted dead away. >> reporter: across the country in california, tricia gough, now retired from the police department, watched rockefeller's arrest with one hope -- that the con man would
finally reveal what he knew about john and linda sohus. >> we also knew that this guy was very intelligent and he probably would not talk. >> reporter: and she was right. rockefeller turned california investigators away at his cell door, but he did agree to talk to nbc's natalie morales in august, 2008, just a few weeks after his arrest. >> are you a mystery man? >> i'd like to be known as a good man, if anything. i'd like to be known as a quiet man living a quiet life. >> reporter: rockefeller admitted that he had used fake names in his life, christopher chichester one of them, he said. but when it came to the sohus investigation, his attorney did most of the talking. >> reporter: did your client know john and linda sohus? >> yeah, there's no dispute he lived there in the place. many people lived there. >> reporter: as christopher chichester? >> yeah, many people put him there. >> reporter: did you kill john and linda sohus? >> my entire life, i've always
been a pacifist. i'm a quaker and i believe in nonviolence. and i can fairly certainly say that i've never hurt anybody. >> reporter: that's all he had to say about the sohuses while he was in jail. he remained equally tight lipped during his trial on parental kidnapping charges. >> the defendant is guilty of offenses charged. >> reporter: in january, he was back in court. but this time in california. this time accused of murder. a team of detective from the los angeles sheriff's department dug up enough new evidence for a judge to decide whether the man still calling himself clark rockefeller should stand trial for killing john sohus. he's pleaded not guilty. >> the people may call their last witness. >> reporter: the judge allowed our cameras into the hearing but would not let us broadcast any witness testimony. still, it was a first glimpse at a case.
front and center, the crime scene photos. the forensic pathologist said look at john's skull, fractured in three places. >> the inference is that john was struck three times in the head with a blunt object that appeared to be rounded like a baseball bat. >> reporter: that skull and the rest of john's skeleton had been found in plastic bags, witnesses testified. but it was one bag in particular that the prosecution argued could be a possible clue to the killer's identity. >> talk about a huge piece of evidence and one that's going to be really hard for his defense to overcome. >> reporter: it was a small plastic book bag with the university of wisconsin logo. rockefeller had briefly been a student there. >> there's a book bag at this crime scene in california 1500 miles away from that very same place. >> reporter: the prosecution then presented witnesses who remembered suspicious details from all those years ago. a neighbor who says he lent the defendant a chain saw. had it been used to cut the body to pieces? and this man, a friend from bible study group who said the con man had tried to sell him and his wife a blood stained rug before he left town.
>> and the wife says, chris, there's a blood stain on this rug. and he rolls it up immediately and says, never mind and takes off. >> reporter: but it was this petite, respectable looking woman, an ex-fiancee who reveals something detectives had never known before. the defendant's panic when he thought lawsuit was closing in. it turns out he knew police were on to him back when he tried to sell john and linda's truck in connecticut, and his reaction had been dramatic. he'd gone to ground for years, his ex testified. had dyed his hair blond and swapped his trademark glasses for contacts. he lived like a hunted man. rockefeller's defense attorneys jeffrey denner and brad bailey say he's innocent. the prosecution's case is circumstantial and full of holes. >> we didn't see anything that we would describe as a smoking gun. >> reporter: in court they suggested that there was no proof that john sohus had been bludgeoned to death. they say the bobcats digging
that swimming pool could have easily crushed the buried skull. >> how is your memory in general? >> reporter: the defense questioned the credibility of prosecution's witnesses describing events decades old. >> people who had relevant things to say years and years ago perhaps are dead. and if they're not dead, a lot of times their memories fade. >> reporter: just as susceptible to the passage of time, they argued, was the physical evidence. there was no doubt there had been blood found in the guest house, but whose blood? then there was linda and the whiff of a suggestion from the defense that she and not their client could have had a hand in whatever happened to john. >> certainly the absence of linda -- >> reporter: is huge. >> is a big hole in the case. if you're the defense, you're looking at linda as, hey, where is she? why isn't she possibly responsible for, you know, for having done this? >> reporter: investigators have returned to the backyard in 2008
with cadaver dogs and sonar devices looking for linda's body, but it wasn't there. you believe that she's still alive? >> i do. >> reporter: detective gough isn't privy to everything investigators know, but from her months on the case she thinks linda survived whatever happened in the guest house the night of john's murder and might even have been involved. >> maybe she wanted out of that marriage and the plan that chichester had gave her an opportunity. >> reporter: she points to those postcards sent from paris months after john's body was in the ground, postcards that seem to have been written by linda. there have been several claimed sightings of linda since she disappeared. >> there's a woman sitting in a midsized truck. >> reporter: wayne kelm, son of the sweet couple that knew rockefeller's real identity said he saw both rockefeller and a woman he thinks was linda at a truck parked at his parents' house. >> as i passed, she looked me right in the eyes and her eyes were all blotchy red all around.
you could tell she'd been crying, crying hard. >> reporter: wayne says this happened some time after john and linda disappeared. >> linda sohus is everything in this case. the story of this case, whichever way it goes, will depend on whether or not somebody on either side of that counsel table can piece together a plausible scenario that fits the facts. >> reporter: after five days of testimony, a judge made his ruling. >> there's sufficient cause to believe -- >> reporter: he ordered rockefeller to be held on $10 million bail. he's expected to be tried later this year. but sue kaufman is beginning to think that even after a trial, she may never know what actually happened to linda, that artist with the outsized imagination and dreams. her best friend. >> i hold on to all the times i ever saw her. all the pictures that i scrapbooked with her thinking that maybe some day when she's in her 60s, we can sit and laugh about this. but i don't think that's going to happen.